SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) – A gathering of internet pioneers,technology experts and officials from the United Nations gathered in San Joseon Monday to discuss the rise of artificial intelligence and how it can be channeled appropriately to empower humans.
The conference called “Our People-Centered Digital Future”coincided with the release of a nonscientific poll in which about 1,000 people involved with technology – from developers and business and policy leaders to researchers and activists – answered questions about what the future will look like because of AI.
The respondents were asked to respond to the open-ended question “By 2030, do you think it is most likely that advancing AI and related technology systems will enhance human capacities and empower them?”
Regarding the simple yes or no, more than 63 percent of respondents say human beings will be better off by 2030 as a result of artificial intelligence with 37 percent believing the opposite.
The worries brought up by the experts tended to center around the potential loss of human agency and decision-making as complex discernment is handed off to robots. Others fret governments, corporations and other agencies with enormous power will use AI for profit or power maintenance and not more humane ends.
“In 2030, the greatest set of questions will involve how perceptions of AI and their application will influence the trajectory of civil rights,” said Sonia Katyal, co-director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology. “Questions about privacy, speech, the right of assembly and technological construction of personhood will all reemerge in this new AI context, throwing into question our deepest-held beliefs about equality and opportunity for all.”
Other fears involve job loss, although some point out different kinds of jobs will naturally emerge.
At the far end of the spectrum, technologists fear the rise of autonomous weapons and other forms of killer robots, cybercrime and weaponizing personal data, and the permeation of lies and propaganda to exert human control.
“Unfortunately, there are certain trend lines that are likely to create massive instability,” said Danah Boyd, a principal researcher for Microsoft and founder and president of the Data & Society Research Institute. “This will further destabilize Europe and the U.S. and I expect that, in panic, we will see AI be used in harmful ways in light of other geopolitical crises.”
But not everyone believes the natural result of a rise in AI technology will bring doom and gloom. In fact, some said the negative attitudes toward the technology are a bigger hindrance to human progress than anything to do with the technology itself.
“What worries me most is worry itself: An emerging moral panic that will cut off the benefits of this technology for fear of what could be done with it. What I fear most is an effort to control not just technology and data but knowledge itself, prescribing what information can be used for before we know what those uses could be,” said Jeff Jarvis, director of the Tow-Knight Center at City University of New York’s Craig Newmark School of Journalism.
Many experts believe the technology will provide greater efficiencies in various aspects of human production, including doing repetitive activities, perform computational thinking, complex decision making, sophisticated analytics and pattern recognition.
Areas like transportation, farming, smart communities,businesses process could use AI to cut down on wasted time and money and offer individuals a future free of pressing cares and overwork. Most of all, health care could make the most significant advances with better more accurate diagnoses and treatments while helping the elderly to live fuller, healthier lives,” according to the experts.
Whether the darker or more optimistic picture emerges depends on how humans develop the technology, how it’s implemented and for whose ultimate benefit.
Janna Anderson, director of Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center, said the many and diverse opinions of the nearly 1,000 respondents can be distilled into one central plea.
“People should join forces to innovate widely accepted approaches aimed at open, decentralized, intelligent networks,” Anderson said in describing the experts’ central idea. “They suggest economic and political systems should be reinvented to better help humans ‘race with the robots,’expanding their capacities and capabilities to heighten human/AI collaboration.”